China corruption trial: Bo Xilai denies ‘insane’ wife’s claims that he knew about bribes

Disgraced politician dismisses testimony from wife, claiming ‘she’s always making things up’
  • @cliffordcoonan

The wife of the disgraced Chinese politician and former rising star Bo Xilai painted a picture of wealth and greed at his trial for corruption today.

Gu Kailai, who has been given a suspended death sentence for the 2011 murder of British businessman Neil Heywood, told through video testimony and written evidence that Mr Bo must have known about money and a villa in the French Riviera that prosecutors say were given to the couple by a businessman friend.

The friend, Xu Ming, from the northeastern city of Dalian, where Mr Bo was once a top official, also paid for international air tickets to destinations such as Europe, Africa and South America, and expensive gifts, including a Segway for the couple’s son Bo Guagua.

But the 64-year-old former Communist Party chief of Chongqing launched a spirited defence on the second day of his increasingly lurid trial in eastern China, describing his wife as “insane” and saying he knew nothing of the favours granted.

“She’s insane, and she’s always making things up,” he told Jinan Intermediate People’s Court, after she gave the video evidence.

He added that Ms Gu had compared herself to Jing Ke, the assassin who tried and failed to kill the ruler of Qin who first unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

“Under conditions where her mental state is abnormal, the investigators put her under immense pressure to expose me,” he said.

Mr Bo has been charged with illegally taking almost 27 million yuan (£2.8m), corruption and abusing his power in interfering in the investigation of Mr Heywood’s 2011 murder.

Of that amount, about 21.8 million yuan (£2.28m) came from Xu Ming, once one of China’s richest men, and another businessman Tang Xiaolin.

Ms Gu added that Mr Bo, when he was mayor of Mr Xu’s hometown of Dalian, helped the tycoon to buy the Dalian Shide football club and find land for a hot-air balloon project in return for the gifts. Mr Xu also paid for a trip to Africa that cost nearly £84,000, she said, and among the gifts he brought back was “a piece of meat from a very exotic animal”.

“Xu Ming is our old and longtime friend,” she said in the testimony. “We had a very good impression of him and believed he was honest and kind, so we trusted him a lot.”

She outlined the web of business dealings surrounding the Nice villa that led to the falling-out with Mr Heywood.

She said Mr Heywood demanded £1.4m in compensation for his stake in the house after his involvement with the property ended.

According to testimony at Ms Gu’s trial, she killed Mr Heywood because he had threatened Guagua after a business dispute with Ms Gu; it is possible that this is the dispute in question.

The Chinese leadership is hoping to use the trial to finally put to bed the country’s biggest political scandal in decades. It had been expected to end today but it continues tomorrow, and is much longer than other public trials of senior figures, including Ms Gu’s murder trial last year.

Foreign journalists have been barred from the proceedings. Information is being released through postings on the court’s feed on the Chinese microblogging site, Weibo, and court transcripts.

Mr Bo, however looks likely to be found guilty and is expected to be sentenced next month.